Saya looks at him, puzzled. “You.. read romance?” she asks.
“Well.. yeah, I..” Lan places the book back on the shelf and slides back to where he was sitting, turning a bit to hide his blush. “I'm kind of a sucker for romances, cheesy or not. But Orange was so much more. I read some.. sci-fi as well, and that kinda mixed the two, yeah?”
She couldn't hold back a chuckle as it makes him blush even more. “I'm.. sorry, I don't mean to laugh. I've just never met a guy that is big into romance stories. I suppose it's nothing new, though.”
“But um.. I didn't ask you in to talk about that, I wanted to know.. what did we talk about last night?” She traces her fingers around the rim of her cup idly, looking down at it. “I don't drink that often and the beer you had was.. strong.
She points to her bed behind him. “I apparently got into bed, but I don't really remember doing so. Though you were drinking too, maybe you don't remember either.”
Admittedly, he didn't, but Lan remembered the start of it, so he tackles that first. “You mentioned a guy named Gregg and how he's.. leaving?”
Saya grimaces and sighs to herself, taking a sip of her tea. “My boyfr.. ex-boyfriend. He was on a visa, and.. just.. decided he was done.” Despite herself, she can feel the tingle in her nose, her eyes starting to well up. Don't do this in front of him, Saya, she reprimands. But she sniffs hard anyway.

   Lan's fingers lift off the table and hesitates. You don't know her, don't touch her. Though when was the last time he touched someone out of comfort?
At her funeral, he thinks. It wasn't so much Lan touching people as they touched him. Hugs, pats on the shoulder, respectful bowing along the procession. A year? His father and Reo weren't particularly touchy-feely when it came to expressions.
So his hands circle around the cup. “We don't.. have to talk about it, if you don't want, I honestly couldn't tell you what we talked about afterwards anyway.”
He stares over at her looking down. “I am sorry that it happened. Seemed kind of cruel to not tell you beforehand.”
She bristles and nods with a fierce look over at her guest. “Right? The nerve! And I.. can't just leave, the new term starts soon. And.. they had just offered me a promotion.” She slowly eases down, tapping her fingers on the cup.
“Offered? You.. haven't accepted? What uh.. would you still be teaching English?” Lan asks.
Saya nods, “At a new school, a middle school this time. You know the one near Morigasaki Park?” He nods, faking it – he knew of the park, but not that there was a school nearby. That's near the airport, he thinks, what a noisy place for a school.
“Are you going to take the job? I assume they wouldn't mind if you wanted to stay with the younger kids.”
She inhales slowly, looking up at the ceiling. “I'm not sure. They just offered it to me recently, but I'm not done with my graduate studies, and.. it would mean more of a workload, but also more money..” Saya levels her gaze over at Lan, tilting her head. “What would you do?”
Lan Satake had never had a full time job, nor a degree. Nor a job at all in the last.. fifteen years, he thinks, what the fuck do you know about.. He shakes his head negatively, but holds up his hands when he realizes he's in front of her – not to make her think she shouldn't do anything. “No, I mean.. I'm not the person to ask.” His finger twirls around the string of the teabag lazily, thinking.
“Compartmentalize.” he states. When Saya looks confused, he looks around the room for a moment for small items and centers on the open makeup bag next to her bed. “May I?” he asks, pointing to it.
She blinks, nodding and shrugging as he takes it, thumbing through it. Why the hell does he want to see my makeup?
Lan sets the bag to the side and sets out a few items on the table in front of them. “This is.. you as you are now.” He places a compact of eye-shadow to his right. “Comfortable, simple, you know what life is. Elementary teaching, degree studying.”
On the other side of the table, he places a tube of lip-gloss, pointing at it. “This is the offer. More work, maybe more stress, but more money, and more knowledge. Notice how they're on the same horizontal plane here.” He motions to the two items. “You know exactly what you're getting into with both, yeah?”
She watches Lan for a moment before looking at her makeup on either ends of the table. “And in the interest of.. fairness, here are the other ends of the spectrum.”
Lan sets the nail polish closer to her, above the known plane. “This is Gregg. And what he offers. I'm assuming you can finish your degree no matter where you are,” she nods in response, “so you could just.. not.. accept another contract of teaching and go back to the States.”
Lan's hand lingers a bit on that last option, but plucks out a simple, fine brush and places the bag on the floor next to him. “And then there's.. my idea.” His mother was a firm believer in this trick, even if he knew the logic of it.
He turns it, brush down, and pushes lightly on the handle to spread filaments out in an easy balance. Releasing it slowly, it stands on its own. Lan never had the heart to explain it to her, but his mother always thought it only worked on a full moon. It's simply a matter of weight distribution, he thinks, but she was always so excited about it.
Lan moves his hands away and leaves Saya just as interested in how the brush stands like that, looking at a diamond shape of her makeup. “Compartmentalize and visualize.” he says, borrowing a Satake way of thinking for the moment.
Saya nods and lifts her hands up from the table as if it would disturb the diagram. She points at each. “Same. New. Gregg.” she deadpans, not an option, but it was nice of him to put it out there, she thinks. “And.. what is that?” motioning to the brush.

That is..

  “What are you doing for Mountain Day?” he asks.


  She squints at Lan, thinking. “I don't.. know? That's that latest holiday.. we had it off last year on a Friday? I didn't know what it meant.”
Lan leans back on his arms, chuckling to himself. “Japan is.. mountainous, and the government thinks you should go appreciate them for a day.”
She's not getting it, he observes. “It started a few years ago, it's a federal holiday. Which means everything is closed and it makes for a good vacation.” Lan slides back and leans against the side of her bed.
“It's more of an excuse for my family to expect me back home for a few days.” he admits. “And I thought maybe you could use a.. getaway. Maybe.”
He starts fidgeting when she doesn't reply. “I mean there's not.. a lot to do in Hiroshima, there's the castle, and mountains, do you hike? I guess I never asked..”
“And museums..” Lan trails off, mumbling as he looks down, the fact that Saya wasn't responding starting to get to him.
“That's.. a long trip for a weekend,” she finally answers. “The train ride would take up--”
“No, we would fly. I mean, I don't like it, but it's only an hour and a half..”
Saya sighs and rests her forehead in her hand, looking over at him. “Lan, I can't afford that. I couldn't even afford the bullet train, I'm a teacher. We don't--”
He sits up and waves his hands side to side. “No no no, no no. It would be on me. I'm offering this, it's only right that I front the travel.”
Was she even giving this a rational thought? “And where would we stay? I'm sure you'd cover that too,” she smirks, spitting it out sarcastically, though she regrets it as it escapes her mouth.
He tenses back a bit and picks up his cup. “I'm.. the group..” Lan shuts his mouth and pauses for a moment, collecting himself. “At.. my house. You would have your own room, no one would bother you, I promise."
aya looks over at her guest, head to toe, who are you? She asks herself. A prim and proper brother with his own driver, vice president, even, but Lan represented nothing of that. And now he's offering a free vacation. This is how girls disappear, Saya. She thinks.
“When is this.. day. Mountain Day?” she asks.
“The 11th.” he answers, a little more than a week from now, on a Saturday. She didn't have class, she wasn't working until next month, but why now?
Saya thinks towards her interaction with him and Reo. Spiteful. Angry.
Lan doesn't want to go home alone. Does she want to put herself in the middle of all that? A vacation would be nice, and she could always spend the majority of her time outside of the house. His house, she reminds herself.
“Can I think about it? For a few days. I.. barely know you, Lan.” she replies.
“R.. right, you're right, absolutely. But..” He pulls his legs under him and stands up, nodding down to her. “Thank you for.. this. The tea. And if you have questions, let me know, just know the.. invitation is open.”
Lan walks out to her apartment's entrance, stuffing his feet into his shoes. “Thank you for having m--”
“Lan.” Saya calls after him, neither can see each other, but she asks the question anyway. “Are you.. is your family..” She holds back her comment, shaking her head. “Nevermind. Goodnight, Lan.”
“Goodnight, Saya.” And he lets the door drift closed.


  Lan stands in front of her door, his fingers curling over the railing as he breathes out a long exhale. The shakes were already coming back, and he counts himself lucky to get out when he could. He lets go and hovers his hand over the bar, his fingertips shaking.
Rummaging in his pockets, he takes out his key and grits his teeth as it taps around the tumbler before he gets it in, twisting and yanking his door open wide. The benzo he had taken earlier was wearing off, and he either needed more of it, or alcohol.
Lan doesn't pull the door closed, letting it drift closed on its own as he darts into his bedroom, pulling open a drawer as his many medications roll to the front. Square bottle, square bottle, small bottle, orange, no, orange, yes! He thinks, twisting it open and dragging a small circular pill to the top and into his mouth.
He crushes it between his teeth, grimacing at the bitter taste but guiding it under his tongue as it dissolves, capping the bottle as he steps back to sit on his bed.
His tremors weren't psychosomatic, but even knowing that the pill was working its way into his bloodstream was enough to calm Lan's breathing. Xanax was fast acting as it was, but the placebo effect was powerful in its own right.
Lan's abdominal muscles radiate soreness at how tight the anxiety and withdrawals kept them, but slowly over the next few minutes, both they and he relax into the bed.
He stares up at the ceiling fan above him, watching it lazily circle on low. His eyes lose focus and the problems for now melt away. Lan had been addicted to them in the past, but it wasn't the same. Funny how one relieves the other, but both are addictive in different ways.
The medication wouldn't stop him from drinking, though. Lan feels like moving through molasses as he places the bottle back in its drawer, tapping his fingers idly on top of the dresser.

  I should get a beer.


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About the author


Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

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